By now you’ve read about our RotoGraphs deep-league Pick Six-like draft. For a refresher, here’s Mr. Bender’s rundown of the process and his draft strategy, as well as the method to the madness behind Mr. Sarris’ selections, and if you’re looking for the full draft recap, check Mr. Zimmerman’s post. Now allow me to explain my choices, starting with No. 2 overall.
CI: Danny Valencia, Twins 3B
I was actually surprised that Valencia was available in more than 90% of ESPN leagues when we did this draft, especially considering how much of a problem spot third base has been this year. Plus, the 26-year-old has a few things going for him: 1) He’s getting everyday run; 2) he’s hitting in the middle of a big-league lineup; and 3) he’s getting hot — 5 extra-base hits and 10 RBIs in the first 10 games this month — heading into the second half. Since coming up a little over a year ago, Valencia has posted a season’s worth of stats that look pretty good for this kind of competition: .272 BA, 17 HRs, 63 Rs, 86 RBIs. The guy doesn’t strike out much (16% career), and all that contact is going to help his counting stats.
C: Wilson Ramos, Nationals C
Had Doug Glanville partaken in this draft, there’s no way Ramos falls all the way to No. 7. Whatever you think of that decision — and frankly, it made me wonder if Glanville knows something that we all don’t — you can’t argue that Ramos isn’t a solid snag here. A catcher who plays pretty much everyday, shows good plate discipline (10% BB rate vs. 20% K rate), already has 8 HRs, and is maintaining a .750 OPS…well, that’s about as good as you can expect in a situation like this. With all apologies to Mr. Zimmerman and Mr. Sarris, who took John Buck and Jarrod Saltalamacchia ahead of Ramos to start the run on catchers, I think I got the better value pick with my younger and still-improving backstop.
OF: Will Venable, Padres OF
I know Venable was Eno’s boy as a preseason sleeper. Then he (Venable, not Eno) went and slashed .224/.293/.291 through late-May, which got him demoted. I also know that Chris Denorfia did a fine job holding down the Padres right field spot while Venable was working things out in Triple-A, thus putting Venable’s status as a starter in doubt. But I also also know that Denorfia, a 30-year-old with an injury history that makes Rich Harden feel bad for him, has never had more than 284 ABs in a season. Now, Venable, 28, is still not playing everyday, and unless he really turns it around — his OPS is still in the mid-.600s — he probably will continue to split time with Denorfia. So this was a risky pick (I know!), but despite all the struggles, Venable does have 15 SBs and that is, in fact, a fantasy category he can contribute to whether he’s starting or pinch running or whatever. The last thing I know? Venable bats left-handed to Denorfia’s righty stick, and that gives my guy the platoon advantage.
SP: Doug Fister, Mariners SP
This is where I put my thinking cap on. I was weighing two different pitching strategies in this draft. The first was to select two high-strikeout, good-ratio relievers — one of which would have to be SP-eligible to fill that position — who might also stumble into a few saves, thus contributing to the most unpredictable category. The other was to pick two actual starting pitchers — again, one of which would have to be RP-eligible to fill that spot. In the end, I decided that strikeouts were more easily accrued than saves (duh), and it was worthing going with two starting pitchers to lock up the K and W categories. I still wasn’t settled on this strategy, though, until my final pick (more on that in a minute), and I actually passed over Fister initially, until I checked his season stats again and realized just how solid this guy has been all year. He’s in his prime (27), pitches in a favorable home park (Safeco), and walks next-to-no-one (1.87 BB/9), which will help keep his — and my — WHIP down. I get that wins will be hard to come by because the Mariners offense is terrible, but there’s no way a guy with a 3.09 ERA and 1.17 WHIP should have just 3 W’s (let alone be, 3-10!). At some point, the results should come. In the meantime, he’ll be an “accruer” won’t hurt me in any category.
MI: Jason Kipnis, Indians 2B
This was my favorite pick. Why? Ballsy. Granted, I’m sorta the prospect guy at RotoGraphs, and I couldn’t not take at least one. But it would have to be a guy who is on the cusp of getting called up soon; otherwise, the risk of falling too far behind in the counting stats could do me in. I figured middle infield was the place to take this gamble because the overall “talent” pool at the position was terrible, and frankly, none of the other three MIs drafted — Chris Getz, Jason Bartlett and Scott Sizemore — have any real upside; they’re more one-category helpers (primarily SBs) than anything else. Kipnis, on the other hand, is one of the most MLB-ready ‘spects who’s yet to debut, and with the recent demotion of fellow infield prospect Cord Phelps (which happened after we picked — lucky me), I’m thinking Kipnis is merely days away. It’s not like Luis Valbuena, who was recalled to replace Phelps, is going to block the Indians’ 24-year-old second baseman of the future and his 11 HRs (34 XBH), 11 SBs and a .900 OPS at Triple-A. As long as Kipnis — who homered in Sunday’s Futures Game, by the way — makes it to Cleveland by, say, July 20, I think he outproduces the other MIs taken. By a lot.
RP: Cory Luebke, Padres SP
By the time I was making the second-to-last pick, I knew that everyone else had already taken one actual relief pitcher, meaning I could execute my two-starter strategy — and be the only owner to do so. The only question: Which RP-eligible starter to take? I weighed guys like Chris Capuano and Felipe Paulino, but I was worried about Capuano’s injury history and Paulino’s implosion-ness. The lefty Luebke, 26, who was a starter in his minor-league career, just recently grabbed a rotation spot after pitching extremely well out of the pen for the first three months, as Mr. Axisa pointed out. There’s always the chance that he gets pushed back to a relief role, which would hurt his chances for Ks and Ws, but even in that worst-case scenario, I know Luebke can do the job and even pitch multiple innings. If his first three starts are any indication — 17 IPs, 8 Hs and an awesome 21:3 K:BB — the Padres would be wise to keep the rookie in the rotation to see what they’ve got. Oh yeah, the Petco factor is going to be a nice help, too.
The scoring for this “league” of ours will begin after the All-Star break. I have no doubt all of you are on the edges of your proverbial seats.
Jason Catania is an MLB Lead Writer for Bleacher Report who also contributes to ESPN The Magazine, ESPN Insider and MLB Rumor Central, focusing on baseball and fantasy content. When he was first introduced to fantasy baseball, Derek Jeter had 195 career hits, Jamie Moyer had 72 wins and Matt Stairs was on team No. 3. You can follow him on Twitter: @JayCat11